John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Anacamptis fragrans
 

A. fragrans was first described by Pollini from Verona, Italy in 1811 and its name refers to the scent of the flower which unlike the unpleasant aroma of its close relative A. coriophora, is thought to be vaguely vanilla scented.

It bears a close resemblance to A. coriophora, commonly known as the Bug Orchid but tends to be taller, spindlier and carry more individual flowers (up to one hundred in some cases). A. fragrans also differs in its habitat preferences, seemingly less reliant on the damp, slightly acidic conditions of its relative and favouring the more typical alkaline orchid habitat of dry grassland, garrigue, scrub and even open woodland. This partiality has led to its relative abundance as compared to A. coriophora which is in steady decline due to the disappearance of its boggy meadow habitat.

Apart from habitat and scent, A. fragrans is difficult to distinguish from A. coriophora v coriophora and differentiation becomes even less straghtforward in Portugal and southern Spain where there exists a variety of the latter, A. coriophora ssp carpetana which is taller and more floriferous with an overall appearance very much like that of A. fragrans. The key difference is the spur which in the subspecies is unmissably large and bulbous, whereas that of A. fragrans is skinny by comparison.

This is an extremely widespread species that is present in most of southern Europe and shares with its close relative A. sancta  a tolerance of mildly saline conditions such that it is very much at home in sand dunes , even where exposed to occasional inundation by the sea. The photographs come primarily from various locations in Italy and date from mid April to mid May.